Is Bob Casey Equipped for a Smith Surge?

Sen. Bob Casey

Bob Casey’s campaign has had two goals for the past two years: raise money, and define their Republican opponent. Between primary day and today, they’ve done just that.

The freshman Democrat raised over $6.2 million as of the most recent report filed back in July, and he’s been hard at work casting Republican challenger Tom Smith as an out of touch Tea Partier.

But when it comes to one of the nitty gritty aspects of campaigning – get out the vote (GOTV) – team Casey is relying on President Barack Obama’s campaign and the Pa. Democratic Party.

In recent weeks, polls have shown the race becoming closer. Casey lead by an average of 14.5 points according to Real Clear Politics on Sept. 18. Today that lead has been cut nearly in half to 7.5 points according to RCP, and trending smaller. It’s not clear if the race will settle into a steady margin, let alone what that margin might be.

Part of that is a function of name ID. Casey started out with a wide advantage as the incumbent, plus his family is Pa. political royalty. Smith has been catching up, outspending the Senator on television for the past few weeks by a margin of 3 to 1. And while Smith has been on TV in the Philadelphia market, Casey has been dark.

Both sides have said consistently that they expected a closer race, as opposed to the consistent double digit lead Casey enjoyed when he defeated Sen. Rick Santorum in 2006.

The real surprise is that Smith has been able to improve even in the absence of a concerted effort by Mitt Romney’s campaign to win Pa. Observers of the race including PoliticsPA predicted at the outset that Casey – who is more appealing to conservative voters than Obama – would run ahead of the President. Now, that doesn’t seem so sure.

Ground game

The Pa. Democratic Party is very closely tied to team Casey. They share an office in Philadelphia, where Casey’s campaign is headquartered. Pa. Democratic Party trackers – not Casey campaign staff – film Smith at public events. The party’s Executive Director, Kevin Washo, is a former Casey staffer.

He said the party’s get out the vote effort is synchronised top to bottom, Casey included.

“We’re intimately involved in all facets of GOTV for everybody in all races,” Washo said, state level and federal alike. “We’re all rowing in the same direction.”

A Casey campaign spokesman declined to comment on the subject, saying that they did not want to disclose strategic information to Smith.

President Obama’s campaign does not comment on internal strategy.

Smith ran against the Republican party’s endorsed candidate for the nomination, so by necessity he had an independent grassroots organization. Now, his campaign works in tandem with the Romney team as well as the Pa. Republican Party. They share volunteers, and data, and coordinate on canvassing and phone banking, said Campaign Manager Jim Conroy.

But Smith also maintains a distinct presence on the ground. His campaign has 7 staffers charged with getting out the vote (4 directly, others through coalition activities). Casey has zero, according to several Democratic sources who spoke with PoliticsPA.

Does it matter? Only if Smith makes it very close. Generally, field activities make a difference on the margins, in races that poll within 4 points or fewer.

If the U.S. Senate race does come down to field in the final month of the campaign, it would be both difficult and urgent for Casey to direct last minute party resources to his areas of strength.

Obama’s campaign has about 50 offices spread around the state. However, the centerpiece to the President’s field strategy in Pa. is high turnout in Philadelphia.

That was the strategy behind Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial re-elect in 2006, too. The former Philly Mayor outpaced Casey by about 26,000 votes, around 7 percent of the Senator’s vote total in the City. Turnout in the Governor’s election was 1 percent higher than the U.S. Senate contest despite the race being lower on the ballot.

In other parts of the state, Casey’s piggyback approach has advantages. Rep. Mark Critz and his allies in western Pa. labor unions demonstrated during the primary that they can get blue collar Democrats to the polls, so Casey can count on benefiting from their efforts.

Buckling down

Casey unquestionably is still the favorite in the race, but he has reiterated time and again that he takes the race seriously. Take his half-a-dozen recent fundraising emails.

“My opponent has pledged to spend $20 million of his own fortune to win this fall – and he’s already funded his campaign to the tune of at least $7 million worth of false ads attacking my record,” he wrote.

“With Tom Smith readying his checkbook to fund a barrage of false attacks to distract from his Tea Party record, it’s going to take a massive pouring of support to ensure Bob gets his message out to Pennsylvanian voters,” wrote his Campaign Manager.

Smith is a former coal company owner and is very wealthy. He’s funded the bulk of his campaign thus far, probably in the range of $10 million to date. That will be apparent on the release of his 3rd quarter fundraising report no later than Oct. 15. An additional $10 million more for the final month.

The downside to being a strong favorite, as he has been the entire race, is that national donors and PACs are spending their resources boosting other Democrats in the country.

If the race gets close, down to a few thousand votes, Casey could enter the home stretch without a mechanism in place to control his destiny.

Update: Ana Puig, the Pa. Director of FreedomWorks, noted that her organization has also been actively engaged in the grassroots effort for Smith.

“We have, so far, distributed over 40K yard signs, 100K door hangers, 100k palm cards and bumper stickers. We just put in another huge order and are now also distributing three different kinds of signs and t-shirts,” she wrote to PoliticsPA. “We have set up over 60 distribution centers all over the state to distribute all of our materials via door knocking, hitting train stations and church parking lots, etc. we also have an online phone banking for this race and two offices.”

FreedomWorks and its Tea Party-affiliated PAC have spent about $200,000 on Smith’s behalf so far.

17 Responses

  1. I’m going for Bob Casey to keep one senator on each side of the line…as a Dem, it irks me to give him my vote, though…SOPA/PIPA…are you kidding me? That’s the grossest proposal for legislation I’ve ever heard. His stances on abortion and gay rights piss me off too. This is the “lesser of 2 evils” choice for me this election.

  2. I would vote for Casey with a heart beat. He is an honest man who does an honest job.

    Tom Smith is all about himself. He talks a big talk but is not there for the people of PA. Tom would not give raises to his workers. Ask his former workers how many plan on voting for him. I would say a lot less than you would believe.

    Tom will not support the people he is always all about his own personal agenda. Tom does not like other people in the world to have an opinion. It is his opinion or none. As Tom would say when he does not get his way, we will revisit that vote at a later time and change it. (Smith is like a child and will get his way every time.) Really is this when the Smith supporters are in the room or when the christian people are not in the room.

    Please remember that all those running for office say such wonderful things to the people but they do not follow through with it. So do not vote for someone because they decided to spend millions and millions of dollars. Hey maybe he should have gave his workers the raises that they deserved, not fired at whim, and had better health insurance for them.

    WOW, what a concept to pay workers a decent wage especially those who risk there lives so that you could have it all.

  3. I actually voted for Bob Casey in 2006 when he was up against Rick Santorum and I’m no big fan of Tom Smith or the Tea Party. In all honesty, both Senate candidates are far to the right of me on social issues. That being said, there’s no way that I’m going to support Casey this time around. It would be fair to label me a fiscal conservative so I already wasn’t a fan of his vote for the ACA or the stimulus. But what really bothers me about Bob Casey is his co-sponsorship of the SOPA/PIPA legislation that would have censored speech on the internet.
    Regardless of anyone’s feelings about how to best manage the economy, I think that most of us can agree that free speech isn’t a right we should take likely. The fact that we talk about issues like this online together without fear of government retribution or violence is enough reason for me to vote against anyone who would want to take those rights away. The fact that Bob Casey either doesn’t care or understand the importance of protecting the 1st amendment is enough reason for me to vote to send him packing.

  4. Bob Casey supports SOPA/PIPA, which would destroy free speech on the Internet. Wikipedia shut down for an entire day last January to protest that law and most members of Congress that had supported it withdrew their co-sponsorship. The entire tech industry protested it in some form and almost every member of Congress and every Democrat and Republican presidential candidate (Obama, Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Paul) issued a statement opposing it. Yet, Bob Casey still supports this law that would censor the Internet.

    That is the very definition of extremism and is the reason why everybody, regardless of party, should vote for Tom Smith and fire the anti-Internet Senator Bob Casey.

    Fortunately, none of Bob Casey’s proposals have become law. He has proposed some truly awful laws.

  5. Tom Smith is the “anti-politician”, a self-made man with humility and common-sense. You know, he reminds me of a younger version of Jimmy Stewart, with his easy-going speaking style combined with a strong sense of determination.

  6. Casey has been phoning it in. Meanwhile, Smith is pedal to the metal. This one could be the sleeper race in PA. Stay tuned.

  7. Good point, Mary. Bob Casey did vote for the NDAA which allows government bureaucrats to detain US citizens indefinitely if the said bureaucrats suspect that the US citizen is a terrorist. Some dusty document says that no person can be deprived of liberty without due process. So, he does have that going for him.

  8. Yes, we know what he has done. Passed 98% of the legislation that the President asked him to, then whines in the background as the President kills the coal industry and it’s jobs here in the state, and violates the consciences of his own fellow Catholics.
    But, be at ease, he has written the President a stern letter, so that should all be cleared up soon. As soon as Smith and Romney take office, that is.

  9. Boy, I just found out what happen to Bob Casey. You say he is a US Senator, from Pennsylvania? He must be really doing good for his state, but why does nobody know what he has done? This is why you should never vote for a name.

  10. Bob “Barack” Casey will not debate Tom Smith because Sen. Casey is afraid what happened to the emperor with no clothes in Denver will happen to him.

    Tom Smith is far from a smooth or slick presentation. Tom Smith is a man of down to earth, simple and humble authenticity who lives the American Dream, farm boy to self-made multimultimillionaire to US Senator. Contrasting silver spoon Casey who inherited an iconic name and not done much with it with the admirable accomplishments, would be devastating. Happily for us, Tom has the money and willing to use it to tell people who he is.

    Tom Smith Record of Accomplishment v. Bob Casey Record of Failure and Zero.

  11. Casey is an empty suit. The only time we see him is at election time. He has been in public office for far too long. Casey was State Treasurer and Auditor General then Senator. Casey is the perpetual campaigner. Always running for office. I am willing to bet that he runs for Governor in 2014.
    Go Tom Smith! The only choice for Senate in PA!

  12. Seriously? Look President. Obama. Wins Pa cause Pitt/Philly go large or himCasey gets them nd does better in the T than Pres. Tom Smith is a non factor. If Romney can beat Pres by 5 Tom has no chance.. impossible? No.Likely ? Again no.

  13. Silver Spoon Bobby has gone through life riding on his daddy’s coat tails and name. Now the silver spoon son is complaining about Tom Smith’s success in the private sector.

    Sad he does not see the irony.

  14. Casey is not equipped but I don’t think it is going to actually come down to a 100,000 vote or less difference.

  15. Go Tom, I have always supported you and Mitt Romney, after last night’s presidential debate, I have renewed faith that we can bring this home both for our state and for the Country! Good luck from our family to yours!

Comments are closed.

  • When Should The Special Elections For The PA House Be Held?

    • May 16, 2023 (Primary Day) (51%)
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